01.How we live is changing
Modern day living means that we’ve grown to demand a lot from our homes – we’re looking for them to be practical and functional, to be a safe haven that accommodates how we live now as well as how might live in the future. We want them to be stylish, interesting, beautiful spaces that reflect who we are as our homes are increasingly becoming an extension of our characters and personalities.
With so much choice and so many ideas out there, the process of designing your home can be seriously daunting – what style should you go for? Should you knock down walls to create more space? What furniture do you need? How should the lighting work? What colours will work in your room? What kind of flooring is right for the space? The list is endless and can be extremely confusing.
This chapter is about going back to basics to teach you how a design professional approaches a project. We look at the changing ways we’re using our homes and think about the importance of space and natural light. We consider the key elements that make up any room: the floor, walls, ceilings, windows and the architectural details that will influence your finished design.
Smart technology, busy lifestyles and multiple interests mean that, today we expect our homes to work a lot harder for us. Not only do we live in our homes, we work, play, entertain and often go to the gym in them too. We need spaces that can respond to these demands while being flexible and adaptable.
The internet has opened a whole world of interiors from all over the globe to us and gives us ideas and inspirations that were previously inaccessible. As a result, we’ve moved away from accepting the cookie cutter norm when it comes to home design, wanting much more influence in our home’s layout in order to create personal spaces that reflect our characters and personalities.
02.Defining your space
Successful home design is underpinned by a real understanding of how you want to live and be in your home. Quite often an interior designer will live with a family for a few weeks before starting a project, just to understand how things work and flow and what the family’s needs are. Before gathering colours, textiles or furniture ideas, this is the first step in the interior design process.
Analysing your day to day activities, how you move through your home and how you use the spaces, will all feed into your interior design scheme. Taking time to get to know what works for you and your family and getting this right in your new design is the difference between a great design and an average scheme.
To get started, build a clear picture of how you use the room. Think about all the activities your space needs to accommodate – for example, your living room might be a space where children play, where your family gathers in the evening or where you spend a few quiet hours with a good book in peace and solitude. Storage is always the biggest challenge in any home – planning what you need at this stage will pay dividends in your final design.
Assessing your life and the function of space in this way, will not only help you identify what furniture and fittings you will need, it will help create the feeling that the room ‘just works’. This prevents costly mistakes when a piece of furniture feels too bulky or the colour on the walls just seems too dark.
Look at your room as it is now, what is the first thing your eye is drawn to when you walk in? Is it easy to move through? Can you walk from one end to the other without squeezing past furniture? Now is the time to consider whether you want to knock down any walls or make structural alterations to the space.
Identifying any challenges in the flow or use of the space will help make sure you find the right solutions as you put together your design. Once you know what you’re working with you can start to furnish and decorate your space in a way that suits your life and reflects your own unique style.
When we embark on a design project, before we even start to think about furniture, colours or textiles, the first thing the professionals consider is the physical space. Do you know anything about your home’s history? Are there any old drawings of it? Finding out more about your home’s architectural style can help form your initial thoughts and ideas about how you might use the space.
Take a look at the room you’re designing. Do you want the design of the room to be defined by its purpose or do you want to create something more multipurpose and personal?
There are four key architectural elements that make up the aesthetics of your space:
What are yours like? Are they traditional or modern? How do they make the room feel? Is there anything you would change to achieve your goals for the room? While the aim here is to focus on the use and the space without being distracted by the decorative elements, now is the time to start thinking about things like floor coverings, wallpaper or paint and what textiles might work in your new scheme?
Your room may also have some of the following architectural features:
- WALL PANELLING
Consider how these features impact the room and its character. What could you do with them to make them features, do they need to be restored or would you rather remove them altogether?
Look at how the room connects to other rooms around it and the flow between these rooms. Take time to notice what impact each of these elements makes on the space – should you leave it or take it away?
Your room is a three-dimensional space so thinking about the architecture and space planning is not just about the room’s measurements. The shape of the room and height of the ceiling will also alter your perception of the space: small rooms with high ceilings can feel spacious and might lend themselves to a mezzanine, while large spaces lacking natural light can feel closed-off, despite their size. Look at the orientation of the room – could you change it for the better? Are there views that could be maximised?
Natural light is crucial to a successful interior. Like plants, humans are drawn to light – by maximising it you can also create a greater sense of wellbeing in your home. Rooms with good natural light tend to feel bright and positive, while those without can feel dark and gloomy.
Now is the time to see if you can improve the layout of your space to maximise the benefits of natural light. Watch the way the sun moves around your room at different times during the day – does it come directly into the room through the window, or does light bounce off the floor or the wall opposite? The more you understand how natural light behaves in your space the more you can use it to your advantage.
Your home’s physical location also plays a part. In the northern hemisphere, south-facing rooms will receive warmer, more direct sunlight than north-facing rooms where the light tends to be more neutral or grey.
The trick is to find ways to maximise and amplify natural light rather than to mute it. In general, darker colours absorb light, while paler colours will help amplify it – if you know your room already has limited natural light, you might consider avoiding deep, rich colours and instead steer towards paler colours that will diffuse it.
Now that you’ve developed a deeper understanding of your space and how you want to use it, the next stage is to start thinking about what style you feel will work in the room.